Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Gilbert library to be first to drop Dewey Decimal

Yvonne Wingett
The Arizona Republic
May. 30, 2007 12:00 AM

When the new Gilbert library opens next month, it will be the first public library in the nation whose entire collection will be categorized without the Dewey Decimal Classification System, Maricopa County librarians say.

Instead, tens of thousands of books in the Perry Branch library will be shelved by topic, similar to the way bookstores arrange books. The demise of the century-old Dewey Decimal system is overdue, county librarians say: It's just too confusing for people to hunt down books using those long strings of numbers and letters. Dewey essentially arranges books by topic and assigns call numbers for each book.

"A lot of times, patrons feel like they're going to a library and admitting defeat because they don't understand Dewey Decimal and can't find the book they're looking for," said Marshall Shore, adult service coordinator for the Maricopa County Library District and driving force behind the idea. "People think of books by subject. Very few people say, 'Oh, I know Dewey by heart.' "

Libraries are trying to adapt to changing times, experts said, and their success lies in a generation of young people who are more comfy at Borders than libraries. Across the U.S., some libraries are trying to lure readers by adding lounge chairs and coffee shops.

Some are incorporating the "bookstore" shelving system into sections of libraries but still use Dewey, or other classification systems, to arrange the bulk of collections, said Leslie Burger, president of the American Library Association.

The books in Gilbert's new library will be organized in about 50 sections, then subsections, from sports to cooking, gardening to mysteries. For example, a book on the Civil War would be in the history neighborhood and in the U.S. section.

"Nowadays, people are used to going to a bookstore to browse, so we're just trying to create that same atmosphere," Shore said.

"I know Dewey fans are out there. But we haven't changed a lot in so long, and I think we're in a fight for our own survival."

No comments: